The Huskers’ football season starts today against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles.
Well, paint me scarlet and cream and whistle me a couple choruses of “Hail Varsity,” I almost missed it.
Missing Nebraska football in Nebraska requires either a cave or a coma. Even die-hard non-fans must do some planning to avoid Saturday’s usual fare: all Huskers, all the time.
Sunday will be more of the same as Big Red fans can’t seem to get enough of their strong, swift and sizable heroes.
Which is the real reason I nearly missed kickoff. Nebraska football never really ends.
News and more news of the Fighting Pelinis grace the state’s newspaper pages and gobble up local air time, whether it’s a must-win weekend in October or a snow-tossed Friday in February. We’re always talking and writing and cussing and discussing Husker football.
Yes, the actual season is the crescendo of such a symphony, but when you can open your paper on a beautiful June morning and read 18 inches about the coaches looking for a backup to the backup long snapper, rare is the day without Husker news.
So, yes, I’ve seen the handful of articles each morning; I’ve even read a few. Nebraska’s sports pages look eerily the same every day: A prominent parade of Husker stories.
Today is different, however.
Now that I have my chronological bearings, I’m ready for the season, Nebraska’s second in its new conference, the Big Ten.
I read where the Associated Press college football writer picked Southern Miss to upset Nebraska, 28-24, surely seen as heresy inside Husker Nation.
I’m never quite sure how one predicts the score, although I know that, over time, your dog McKibble probably has about as good a winning percentage forecasting outcomes as the handsome men in impeccable suits on ESPN.
A corollary to such mysteries is when the underdog beats the favorite and the next week an “expert” insists the loser is still the better team.
My money is on the good guys in red by a couple touchdowns today, playing at home in front of 85,000 thirsty for a championship of some kind. Plus, McKibble picked them, and he’s rarely wrong.
Memorial Stadium, where my aforementioned predicted beatdown will occur, is expanding in the east, too. College football stadia in general continue to climb higher and turn fancier, more of them housing pockets of privilege known as sky boxes that rival professional accommodations for the well-heeled.
The Huskers will share the national spotlight today, which includes a game from Dublin, Ireland, where Notre Dame takes on Navy.
One Notre Dame broadcaster will not be making the trip after he insisted that the Fighting Irish, or any college team for that matter, does better when it has a couple criminals on the squad. Think Phi Beta Kappa meets “The Longest Yard.”
Speaking of staying home, a number of star players — including a Heisman Trophy finalist from last year — have been dismissed from their teams or suspended for all or part of the season for breaking the rules or the law. (A certain Notre Dame broadcaster may want some email addresses.)
And even though Husker football is a year-round enterprise, today also will see hundreds of thousands dust off the grill, fill their coolers and participate in fall’s second most endearing sport: tailgating, where a brat is never better and a cold one never cooler than on a fall morning outside ever-expanding college football stadiums.
Tailgating is followed closely in popularity by Monday morning quarterbacking, now bigger than ever given the anonymity of the Internet and passion (or blind loyalty) of college football fans.
For Husker fans, it all starts — well, continues really — today. I’m glad I won’t miss it.